The primary service providers that manage hearing loss are either an Audiologist (Au.D.) or a Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS). The main difference between the two professionals is that an Audiologist is required to hold a Doctorate in Audiology which includes a total of 8 years of advanced education.
This education provides extensive training for the ENTIRE auditory system, permitting testing to include not just the hearing, but hearing processes including the ear and the pathway to the brain. This also includes your vestibular system (balance) which is tied to the auditory system.
Essentially audiologists provide thorough hearing healthcare, not just hearing aids. Not all hearing disorders need to be treated with hearing aids. Sometimes surgery, medical management or other solutions are necessary. Audiologists hold extensive academic credentials, professional certifications, and licensure, requiring them to legally provide compassionate, in-depth patient-centered care bound by superior ethical standards. This includes thorough patient assessment, comprehensive diagnostic tests that determine degree, configuration, and etiology of hearing disorders. This can lead to consultation to discuss appropriate treatment options including referrals to specialty physicians when appropriate, highly specialized hearing aid fitting and programming if needed, and a process of post-fitting adjustments and counseling.
Hearing aid dispensers or (HIS) are trained to test hearing for the primary purpose of selling hearing aids. Hearing aid dispensers can sell hearing aids in many states if they have a high school diploma or GED Certificate, pass a license exam, complete a brief apprenticeship with a licensed hearing aid specialist, and there is very little regulation within their industry. Reduced standards for hearing aid dispensers have caused a rapid spread of clinics with superficially trained staff, whose scope of practice is limited to hearing aid sales…not audiological services or thorough hearing healthcare.
The bottom line is, if you or someone you love is having a hard time hearing, it is best to schedule a diagnostic audiological examination prior to jumping into any presumed treatment options.